United are still hungry, says Carrick

Midfielder claims that Old Trafford clash with Liverpool can provide timely spur
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The Independent Football

The midfielder Michael Carrick has urged Manchester United to push on as the Premier League finishing line comes into view.

United entertain their old rivals Liverpool on Sunday knowing that if they win all their eight remaining games, an unprecedented fourth successive title – and a record 19th overall – will be the reward.

It is easier said than done, of course, with Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur also still to be faced on the run-up. United cannot afford to take anything for granted.

But after demolishing Milan in the Champions League and – the defeat to Everton at Goodison Park excepted – with their form on the rise since Christmas, United have every reason to look forward with optimism to the weeks ahead, says Carrick.

"The confidence is there," he said. "We are playing some good stuff and have been on quite a good run lately. It is a good time to be doing it but we have no intention of finishing that now.

"There are still eight games to go in the league and we need to carry our present run of results right to the very last game. I am sure it is going to go right down to the wire, so there is no way we will be taking our foot off the gas just yet."

Along with most of the United squad, Carrick has played a part in the previous three championship triumphs. On the road to them all there have been tricky moments, or days when games have not gone to plan. The key to emerging with the ultimate prize is to react positively in times of strife, knowing games can still be changed right down to the last seconds.

That is a lesson Arsenal seem to be learning, judging by their recent results, while United's history is peppered with last-gasp victories, pulled from the jaws of defeat. "You have to be patient during matches," said the former Tottenham midfielder.

"Traditionally this club has always played to the last few minutes. We have always believed we will score goals. Sometimes it is harder than others but the knowledge of doing it in the past does help."

United have to end a three-match losing streak against Liverpool if they are to retain leadership of the Premier League this weekend. On each of those occasions, Nemanja Vidic has been sent off.

The odds favour a home win given the struggles of Rafael Benitez's men in a season in which they were expected to launch a concerted title bid, only to end up battling against the odds to preserve their top-four status.

However, as Park Ji-sung is acutely aware, victory will not come easily for the Red Devils. "We are looking forward to the game against Liverpool. You can feel the atmosphere is different for a game against Liverpool than for other games," said the South Korea midfielder.

"You know the history and the rivalry. There have been some great games between the two teams and we lost at Anfield earlier this season, so there is an element of revenge. But we are ready to play against them and this time I hope we show our strength."

Ryan Giggs is expected to return to the squad after breaking his arm at Aston Villa last month as Sir Alex Ferguson, with a full week to prepare and no midweek game ahead of his team, chooses from strength.

United's England midfielder Owen Hargreaves, who has not played for two years because of various injuries, was due to make his return for the reserves last night in a friendly match.

Comeback trail: Owen Hargreaves

* Owen Hargreaves was passed fit to make his return with United's reserves last night after two years on the sidelines. He has endured a torrid time since joining from Bayern Munich for £17m in 2007. He went down with tendinitis of the knee in September 2008 and has had surgery on both knees.

* The midfielder has been limited to 37 appearances for the Old Trafford side, in which he has scored two goals. His last match came in a 1-1 draw at Chelsea in September 2008.

* His England career has stalled as he won the last of his 42 caps against the United States in May 2008, and has featured in just three of 29 matches of the Capello era.

* His time at Bayern was also fraught: he picked up a range of injuries including a torn thigh muscle, a calf strain and adductor problems – even breaking his left leg in 2006.